Category Archives: hooks

No More Excuses

Every week I fabricate more excuses for not sending out queries. Last week, I decided that, since Nathan Brandsford was deluged with queries, other agents would be as well. So I didn’t send anything off. Before that, I skipped the holiday rush, then decided it was best to wait until agents were caught up with their holiday rush. I’ve been, probably foolishly, waiting for the perfect moment–the problem being that there is no perfect moment, at least not that I can ascertain. Agents are swamped; there are simply too many writers out there, and the number of would-be writers seem to grow monumentally every year.

I could bemoan my fate of being one drop in an ocean-full of writers, or I could simply move past it, accept my fate, and query. You see, I’m in my mid thirties, and I’ve always claimed to be a writer, ever since I can remember, anyway. In my twenties, I wrote several books, and I learned about marketing and publishing–and it was difficult enough back then. I decided those weren’t the books, that they weren’t good enough, etc, and I had a few children, went back to school to study for a creative writing degree, and then, finally, finally, wrote The Book. And now I discover that, though the publishing world was daunting in the nineties, it’s much worse now. Everybody, these days, has to write a book. Writers are, apparently, a dime a dozen. And I’m an insignificant little drop of water mixed in the ocean.

However, I’ve written (I hope) an eye-catching query, a good working synopsis, and I’ve edited and polished and refined my novel, especially the tricky first thirty pages, and all this based on feedback from others, especially by an agent who judged a contest that I entered. I am, sadly, not a clever person, and therein you’ll find my weaknesses. The winners of this particular contest were based on a point system. Much to my chagrin, my points were in the top range for my writing, setting, characters, style, etc, and were at the extreme opposite end for my hook and plot. I already knew that there wasn’t anything wrong with my plot; it fit neatly on a typical plot curve of rising action, climax, and resolution. It was the way I described my plot in the synopsis that knocked me out of the running for first place, along with the lack of hook in my synopsis and in the first page of my novel. In case you’re wondering, I still won a hundred bucks, which I won’t say ‘no’ to any day, but I wasn’t numero uno.

Although the review was direct and without commentary, it told me all I needed to know: Essentially, I had to rework the first pages and rewrite the synopsis (not to mention actually writing a workable query), and, at some point in there, develop cleverness. If you knew me, you’d know how difficult this was. I’ve never been clever, not ever, and I don’t like hooks, and I don’t particularly like beginning a novel in medias res. I’m a big fan of Ian McEwan, for example, whose novel beginning are, to put it bluntly, slow. If you’ve read Saturday, you know what I’m talking about. Basically, this book begins with a guy waking up in the early morning, staring out of his window, and ruminating for the next fifteen pages. I loved it, though I must admit the author lost me a little in the extremely long and slow racquetball scene that comes later. My point, though, is that, although I will read any kind of book, I prefer the ones that bring me into the action slowly. Of course, I don’t expect that much action in stories, anyway. Like I said, I’ll read anything. If it’s an action-packed book, so be it, but, if not, it doesn’t really matter to me at all.

Regardless of my slow, ruminative nature, I coldly axed the first fifteen pages of my book. And I learned how to do hooks in my own style. I also, after many drafts, wrote a query that had my critics saying things like, “I’m actually really surprised at how good this is!” I didn’t take it personally. I just accepted the compliment for what it was. Next week, then, I’ll be sending off some queries. Wish me luck, pray for me, and send your positive thoughts my way (I don’t really believe in luck, just God and the serendipity that he sometimes brings my way).

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